Friday, May 31, 2019

Angela Merkel in Harvard

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered the 368th commencement speech at Harvard University, inspiring graduates with her stories and experiences, encouraging them to take risks, make thoughtful decisions and hold onto their core values.

Surrounded by the Class of 2019, Merkel told her own story of growing up behind the Berlin Wall. As a young scientist in the GDR, Merkel‘s opportunities were limited. She did, however, become involved in politics after the fall of the wall - and against all odds, rise through the ranks to become Germany’s first female chancellor.

“The Berlin Wall limited my opportunities,” she told the graduates. “It quite literally stood in my way. However, there was one thing which this wall couldn’t do through all those years: It couldn’t impose limits on my inner thoughts, my personality, my imagination, my dreams and desires.”
Merkel encouraged graduates that they can all make a difference in the world, no matter how difficult it might seem. “Anything that seems to be set in stone and unalterable, can be changed,” she said. “Every change begins in the mind.”

In today’s world, there are “walls in people’s minds, walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness,” she said, encouraging graduates to go out into the world and “tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is.”

Ahead of her commencement address, Chancellor Merkel was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard University. Harvard President Larry Bacow called the German leader one of the most “influential statespeople of our time.”

Chancellor Merkel is the fourth German leader to give a commencement speech, following Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1955), President Richard Weizsäcker (1987) and Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1990). Be sure to check out our top stories in TWIG to watch Chancellor Merkel’s full speech and read more about her visit to Harvard.

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

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